Steampunk enthusiasts rejoice: The skies may soon be full of airships. Dirigibles are the low-carbon way of shipping goods long distances, according to a recent article in Scientific American. No word on whether it's greener to wear aviator goggles, petticoats, and button boots while flying them, but let's just go ahead and assume the answer is yes.
Several companies, including Lockheed Martin, are developing freight dirigibles for cargo transport. They're especially valuable in areas without a lot of transport infrastructure — they don't require runways or roads, like existing freight options do. That means that having a viable airship cargo fleet could save a lot of wilderness from paving.
Even outside of the wild frontier, airships have environmental and economic advantages. They use a fraction as much fuel as traditional aircraft, and while they're slower and have more limited ranges, there's plenty of cargo for which cost is a greater concern than speed.
Oh and P.S., no, they will not go up in oh-the-humanity balls of flame. First of all, they use helium instead of flammable hydrogen, and second, there have been a lot of improvements in piloting tech. In fact, an airship crash may be less of a disaster for cargo than a plane crash, because the ships can land safely on water and float, along with their payload, until rescued.
- Is There a Future for Airships? , Scientific American
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